Tommy Allsup, RIP

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UPDATE: The funeral for Tommy Allsup will be held Wednesday, January 18, 2017, at 11 a.m., at First Baptist Church, Owasso. Flowers may be sent to Mowery Funeral Home 9110 N. Garnett Rd. Owasso, OK 74055.

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Legendary guitarist Tommy Allsup died yesterday, January 11, 2017, at the age of 85.

Allsup was raised on a farm west of Owasso and graduated from Claremore High School in 1949. Allsup was a member of Johnnie Lee Wills' western swing band in 1952, had his own band in Lawton and Odessa, played guitar in recordings and on tour with Buddy Holly, became an A&R man and producer for Liberty Records in Los Angeles, and became one of Bob Wills' Texas Playboys, working with Wills from 1959 until 1973's For the Last Time, which Allsup produced and on which he played bass.

Allsup is best known as Buddy Holly's lead guitarist for the fateful 1959 Winter Dance Party tour. He and bassist Waylon Jennings had been slated to fly with Holly from Clear Lake, Iowa, to the next stop on the tour, but Jennings gave up his seat to J. P. Richardson ("The Big Bopper"), who was ill, and Allsup lost a coin toss to Richie Valens for the last seat on the plane.

Allsup met Holly at the Norman Petty Studio in Clovis, New Mexico. That's Allsup's licks you hear on "Heartbeat" and "It's So Easy." Here's Allsup, in an interview with Darryl Hicks in 2008, explaining how he came to play for Holly in May of 1958, and how he wound up on the Winter Dance Party Tour:

During a lot of the Fifties I had a band named the Southernaires based out of Lawton, Oklahoma. We were working at a place called the Southern Club. We played there seven nights a week. It was there that I got a call from a friend of mine, a piano player, to come out to Clovis and record with a trio he was working with. I took off a couple of days from the club and went over to Clovis to help out. We recorded the trio one night. Norman Petty, the studio owner, had a bass player, a drummer and a background vocal group on staff there. He didn't have a guitar player right then, so he asked me if I wanted to stay around a few days and play on some more records. I said, "Sure." It was during that time that I first met Buddy Holly....

...Buddy came in from England. He and the Crickets already had a few hits by then. He asked me to play on some of his records. The first night we cut "It's So Easy (to Fall in Love)."...

The summer of `58 both Buddy and Jerry Allison got married. That fall they had a tour coming up called "The Show of Stars" out of New York. There were probably twenty acts on it. Buddy asked me to go on tour with them. That was also the time that he decided that he wanted to move to New York, but the Crickets didn't want to live there. He was also having some trouble with Norm Petty at the time, so in the end he went ahead and moved and the other guys all stayed in Clovis....

I went back to the band from Lawton, and we moved to Odessa. That area was starting
to boom with the oil business and all, so we went there to open up a new dance hall named the Silver Saddle. I played there with a guy named Moon Mullican (the hillbilly boogie piano picker out of Nashville who ended up being so influential over guys like Hank Williams, Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis and Bill Haley). We were there in Odessa on New Years' Eve. Buddy was in Lubbock for the holidays, and he drove down to see us play. He told me that about this tour called the Winter Dance Party Tour that was coming up, and that Jerry Allison and Joe B. Mauldin weren't going to go. He asked me tour with him and mentioned that he was going to hire a West Texas kid named Waylon Jennings to play bass. He wanted me to find a drummer. I mentioned that there was a good drummer from that area named Charles Bunch. Charles, or Carl, as everyone calls him, was in that first trio I played in the session at Norman Petty's studio in Clovis.

You'll need to click that link to read Allsup's account of the fateful coin flip with Richie Valens and what happened to that coin.

Later that year, Allsup headed to Los Angeles. He became Liberty Records' A&R director for Country & Western music and a record producer and session musician for both country and pop artists. That's his guitar (and Leon Russell's keyboards) on Gary Lewis and the Playboys' hit "This Diamond Ring." Allsup produced all of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys' recordings on Liberty, including the 1960 and 1961 sessions that reunited Bob Wills and vocalist Tommy Duncan. Tex Williams was another artist whose work was produced by Allsup for Liberty.

Allsup built his own studio in Odessa in the mid-1960s, from which emerged one of the more unusual rock hits of the 1960s, "In the Year 2525," by Zager and Evans.

In 1968, Allsup went on to Nashville to work as a studio musician, backing many of the legends of country music, including George Jones, Marty Robbins, Reba McIntire, Ferlin Husky, Faron Young, Wanda Jackson, Lynn Anderson, Charlie Rich, and Kenny Rogers. (See Praguefrank's Country Discography for details.) In 1973, he produced and played bass on Bob Wills's final album, For the Last Time. After Wills's death, Allsup produced and sometimes performed with the Original Texas Playboys, led by Leon McAuliffe.

For the last 20 years or so, Allsup joined Leon Rausch to front Bob Wills' Texas Playboys, the band officially authorized by the Bob Wills estate to carry on his musical legacy. With the Playboys, Allsup made appearances at Cain's Ballroom every March for the annual Bob Wills Birthday Bash and every April at Bob Wills Day in Turkey, Texas, along with gigs from coast to coast. While the lineup of the Texas Playboys has varied depending on the sidemen available to travel to a gig, Allsup and Rausch have been constants, with Allsup on lead guitar and Rausch on lead vocals. At every performance I witnessed, Allsup would also sing on several Bob Wills tunes, Buddy Holly's "Raining in My Heart," and the blues tune "Big Boss Man."

Tommy Allsup and Leon Rausch, Cain's Ballroom, March 4, 2012

Allsup was one of the last surviving musicians to have toured and recorded with Bob Wills. Leon Rausch, Bobby Koefer, Herb Remington, Ramona Reed, and Jody Nix are among the few who are still with us. Tommy Allsup's absence will be keenly felt at this year's Bob Wills Birthday Bash.

MORE:

In 2011, John Erling interviewed Tommy Allsup for his Voices of Oklahoma series.

Radio station WFMU's "Beware of the Blog" has the entirety of Twistin' the Country Classics (Liberty, 1963) available for your listening pleasure. Tommy Allsup headed a band of studio musicians called the Raiders.

Buddy Holly historian Randy Steele spoke to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal about Tommy Allsup's visit last fall.

"Tommy's body may have been 85, but his hands were as young as ever, and so was his mind," said Steele, adding he's a longtime friend of the Holly family and an avid fan and researcher of Holly and the Crickets. "He played unbelievable. It was almost effortless, or seamless."

NOTE: Photos are from the 2012 Bob Wills Birthday Bash at Cain's Ballroom in Tulsa. Copyright 2012 by Michael D. Bates. All rights reserved.

If you read my earlier entry about cricket in Australia, you're likely champing at the bit, wondering where you can see this high-scoring sport close to home.

In the month of January, your best opportunity is while seated on your sofa. NBC Sports Network (channel 317/1317 on Cox Tulsa cable) is airing one KFC Big Bash League game every week through the end of the season, plus the semifinal and final matches. This is TV-friendly Twenty20 cricket -- twenty overs per side, with an overall three-hour time limit. Teams are penalized if they fail to complete their bowling innings within 90 minutes; the Brisbane team faces the suspension of their team captain for going five minutes over. The Brisbane-Perth match, which aired live at 2:30 am this morning, will be rebroadcast Thursday, January 12, 2017, at 11:00 am Tulsa time. It's a very different fan experience, too: In contrast to the empty stands for the Sheffield Shield matches I watched, the Gabba was sold out for this match, which featured flashy scoreboard graphics, music between overs, and a swimming pool overlooking the pitch.

But when our weather warms up, there will be an opportunity to see live and local cricket. Two Tulsa clubs, the Greater Tulsa Cricket Club and the Green Country Cricket Club, participate in the Two-State Cricket League (TSCL), along with five clubs based in Wichita, three in Oklahoma City, and one each in Lawton, Stillwater (associated with OSU), and Salina, Kansas. Gauging from the names on the roster, it appears that one of Tulsa's two clubs is predominantly Indian and the other Pakistani. Both teams play at Ute Park, south of Jackson Elementary School at Ute St. and N. Pittsburg Ave. (A well-tended wicket shows up clearly on satellite photos.) The 2017 schedule is not yet posted, but last year's list of fixtures indicates that they play 35-over cricket from early April until October and Twenty20 cricket in October.

As I learn more details, I'll keep you posted.

The Vital Records Department of the Oklahoma State Department of Health has made its database of birth and death certificates searchable online. While the certificates themselves can't be viewed, the limited information (county and date) may provide helpful leads to family historians. The database includes limited information on births that occurred more than 20 years ago and deaths that occurred more than 5 years ago.

Certified copies of birth and death certificates may be ordered from the Department of Health, but those that are not yet considered public record require some justification -- proof of relationship to the subject of the record, or a court order.

Birth certificates older than 125 years and death certificates older than 50 years are considered public record and require only an application and payment of fees to receive a certified copy. I'm hoping that eventually researchers who don't require a certified copy will simply be able to view public record certificates online.

This development is thanks to a bill sponsored last session by State Sen. David Holt and State Rep. Elise Hall, which mandated the creation of the index and that it be available free and online. The bill also reduced the public record waiting period for death certificates from 75 to 50 years, bringing it more inline (but not entirely) with surrounding states. Chris Powell, whose genealogical research provided some impetus for these changes, wrote last June about the bill's passage and then, last week, hailed the advent of the online database, almost six months earlier than the legislation's deadline of July 1.


Australia: Cricket

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NOTE: The fifth day of the third test match between Australia and Pakistan began at 5:30 pm Tulsa time, Friday, January 6, 2017. You can listen online (free with registration) or watch the ball-by-ball description (no registration required) here. Australia finished its second and final innings late yesterday with a 464 run lead. Pakistan must either catch up to win (very difficult), or manage to keep batting until the end of the day for a draw (possible). UPDATE: Australia managed to get all 10 wickets within 80 overs, giving up only 244 runs. That's only three more runs than Australia gained for two wickets. Only one Pakistani batsman managed more than 50 runs. Final total: Australia 779, Pakistan 559.

NBC Sports Network (Cox Tulsa channels 317/1317) is airing ten KFC Big Bash League games this season, including semifinals and finals later this month. The next opportunity to watch is the Brisbane Heat vs. the Perth Scorchers, on January 11, 2017, 2:30 am Tulsa time, with a rebroadcast on January 12 at 11 am Tulsa time.

Imagine a variant on baseball:

  • Instead of scoring a run when you pass home plate, you score a run every time you reach a base.
  • Instead of four bases, there are only two.
  • Instead of the base consisting of a square pad you have to step on to be safe, there's a line you have to cross.
  • There's always one batter and one runner on first.
  • The pitcher pitches six balls from first base to home plate. Then home plate becomes first base and vice versa, the batter becomes the runner and vice versa, and a different pitcher pitches six balls in the opposite direction from the previous 6.
  • "Pitcher" is a misnomer. He can best to bounce and spin the ball off of the ground. Let's call him a bowler instead.
  • There's no such thing as a foul ball.
  • If you hit the ball, you don't have to run, if you don't think you have time to run to the other base before the ball comes back.
  • Instead of standing beside home plate, the batter stands in front of a thing that looks like three croquet stakes next to each other, with two little wooden tops resting on top of them.
  • Getting out involves someone catching a batted ball on the fly; a fielder hitting the croquet stake things with a ball, hard enough to knock the wooden top things off, while runners are between the lines; the bowler hitting the croquet stake/wooden top assembly with the ball, or the bowler hitting the batter's leg with the ball if the ball would otherwise have hit the croquet stake/wooden top things.
  • Instead of an outfield wall, there's a rope, at least 225 feet from the batter. Hit a ball over it on the fly, you score six runs. Hit it over on the ground, you score four runs.
  • If you hit a double or a home run, you get to keep batting, at least until it's time for the bowling to change direction.
  • One team keeps batting until 10 of their 11 batters are out. That's an innings. Each team gets two inningses.
  • You play for six hours a day, stopping a couple of times for lunch and snacks, for four or five days.
  • No pinch hitters, no pinch runners, no substitutions (except for illness or injury).
  • And if both sides haven't finished their inningses by the scheduled end of the game, it's a tie, no matter how big the lead.

This, then, is cricket.

I was delighted to hear that there would be a Sheffield Shield match at the Brisbane Cricket Ground while I was in town, and my schedule would allow me time to take in some of the match. Sheffield Shield is the name of the annual double-round-robin competition between state teams, and this four-day match would pit the Queensland Bulls against the New South Wales Blues. Better yet, there was no fee for admission, so I could watch as much as I had time for without feeling I'd wasted money on a ticket.

Sheffield Shield is just one level down from international competition (aka Test cricket), but levels of play aren't mutually exclusive the way they are in American baseball. A Shield team is more like a statewide all-star squad, and the team that competes in international tests is like the Olympic team. Steve Smith, captain for Australia, also captains the NSW Blues and plays for the Rising Pune Supergiants in the Indian Premier League. Other international players also play in Australia's Big Bash League, a shorter form of cricket. Smith was batting while I was there, and the Blues and Bulls combined included at least a half-dozen players that are also on the national team: Dave Warner, Usman Khawaja, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, and Nathan Lyon.

The state teams and national team each have a panel of selectors who pick which players will take the field for the next match. After a string of losses, the selectors take as much heat, if not more, than the players. After Australia lost the first two test matches in a series of three against South Africa last month, the chairman of selectors resigned. A revamped board of selectors called up some new players, based on their performances in this season's Sheffield Shield, and the recharged Aussies managed to win the third and final test against South Africa, a series of one-day internationals against New Zealand, and the first test against Pakistan. Currently Australia is ranked second among the 10 nations that play test cricket, trailing India; the two teams will meet in a four-match series in India in February and March.

I said the match was held at the Brisbane Cricket Ground, but if you were to ask a local for directions using that name, you'd likely get a blank stare. At five syllables, that name, while technically accurate, is way too long for an Aussie to trouble himself to speak it in full. Locally, the stadium is known as The Gabba, which is short for Woolloongabba, the Brisbane district in which it's located.

The Gabba, Brisbane, as seen from the intersection of Stanley Street and Main Street

There has been a cricket ground at the site of The Gabba since 1895, but the current 42,000-seat stadium is the product of a staged redevelopment from 1993 to 2005 that replaced historic grandstands and buildings with a round stadium, the sort of thing that American cities built in the US in the 1970s to house both baseball and football teams (e.g. Busch Stadium, Three Rivers Stadium, Riverfront Stadium). I heard a cricket commentator on the radio refer to the redeveloped Gabba as "soulless." It certainly lacks any sense of history.

Before the redevelopment, there was a grassy berm known as "The Hill" where rowdier fans could let loose, and kids could run and play:

The Gabba hill was a place where you could stretch out, relax, drink full strength beer, watch some cricket, or even have a sleep late in the day if you needed it. And for those seated in the stands, when the game out in the middle was meandering along, you could always rely on the hill to provide some entertainment....

I remember sitting on the hill at the Gabba while my grandpop drank tallies and us kids played with an old bat and tennis ball.

The oval fits in between two major streets, but the stadium stands were a little too big. Rather than reroute the streets, the upper-levels of the stands overhang them.

On this October day in 2016, only one gate was open for the match. A stadium staffer handed me a roster of players and directed me to the handful of sections that were available. The ground-floor concourse looked the same as a US multipurpose stadium, except for the off-track betting parlor. A single concession stand offered soft drinks, hot dogs, chips (fries, that is), low-point beer, and mixed drinks. (They have pre-mixed cans of Bundaberg rum or Jack Daniels or Jim Beam and cola, diluted to 4.6-5.0% ABV, just a little stronger than 3.2 ABW beer.) Some sections were marked as no-alcohol zones.

Perhaps 200 fans were scattered around the open sections. The sky was cloudless. Qantas and Virgin Australia jets zoomed overhead on final approach to Brisbane airport several miles north.

The Gabba, Brisbane

The quiet was striking. No announcer on the PA system. No music between overs. Just conversation, interrupted by the crack of bat on ball and applause when someone hit for four or for six. The crowd rewarded a century -- a batsman reaching 100 runs -- with sustained applause and a standing ovation, even if it was a batter for the opposing team. Once in a great while, there'd be a cry of "howzat!" from the fielding team (the traditional way to appeal to the umpires to call a batter out), followed by a groan from the crowd in reaction to the umpire's decision. Over three separate visits to the stadium, I heard young tourists speaking French, middle-aged men discussing buying a television, train journeys, and the new female clerk at the 7-Eleven, a noisy, vulgar heckler (who was escorted out), and long-time cricket fans actually discussing the players and action on the field.

The scoreboards on either side of the stadium displayed the rosters for each team with batting and bowling stats for the current innings.

The Gabba scoreboard

Cricket is a challenging sport for spectators. The closest seat in the stadium is nearly as far from the wicket (about 250 feet) as a Fenway Park bleacher seat is from home plate (just over 300 feet). With few exceptions, plays don't develop over time but are almost instantaneous: A ball is bowled, the batter strikes, the ball is caught or stopped, all in a matter of seconds. Unless you have very keen eyes, you're dependent on the reaction of the fielders, a signal from the umpires, or a change on the scoreboard to know what just happened. Watching on TV, where the cameras can zoom in on the action, and where you can watch instant replays and hear play-by-play commentary, makes the action easier to follow. The exceptions are boundaries, particularly when there's a chase to see if a fielder can stop the ball before it crosses the rope; and run-outs, when the batters are trying to stretch a hit into as many runs as possible -- a fielder throws the ball at the wicket to knock off the bails while the runner is between the lines.

Bowling at The Gabba

The biggest challenge to drawing a crowd is the sheer length of the games. Unless you're retired, you just don't have time to watch a match that runs for six hours per day over four or five days. Cricket organizations have tried to adjust to modern tastes by playing day-night cricket, starting at 1 pm instead of 10 am, pushing the final session into the evening, under the lights (with a pink ball that's easier to see), and by offering shorter forms, like one-day internationals, where each team is limited to 50 overs (300 balls), or Twenty20 cricket, in which the limit is 20 overs (120 balls) a side, a game that can be finished in roughly three hours, the length of a longish baseball game. The KFC Big Bash League plays Twenty20 cricket in eight cities, one in each state capital plus a second team each for Melbourne and Sydney. Last year, the Brisbane Heat drew 29,353 fans on average, despite a 6th place finish. This past Tuesday, a match against the Sydney Sixers brought 32,371 fans through the turnstiles.

Compare that to 26,343 for the first day of the first test against Pakistan at the Gabba last month. As the match continued, attendance declined and then plummeted: 23,344 on day 2, 20,915 on day 3, 4,890 on day 4, and 2,593 on the final day. Australia had finished batting on day 3, and rain shortened day 4, but Pakistan finished strong and came close to catching up, only to be all-out early on day 5, when bad weather threatened again.

But long-time cricket fans worry that short-form cricket, which is becoming the norm for school matches, is ruining players for the traditional game. Twenty20 cricket puts a premium on swinging for the fences at every opportunity. In traditional cricket, patient shot selection is key to staying at bat and running up the score. If you hit twelve balls in a row on the ground and never budge from the crease, that's OK -- you've defended your wicket.

Traditional cricket adds more strategy to the game: The weather forecast, bowler fatigue, the changing condition of the ball and the pitch, the effect of sunlight, shadow, and stadium lights, the time remaining, all play into the captain's decisions about whether to bat or defend, when to "declare" (end an innings early, before 10 wickets have fallen), and whether to require a follow-on (a team leading by 200 or more runs after the first innings can require the trailing team to hit first in the second innings, increasing the likelihood that the match will be completed in the allotted time, avoiding a draw, and possibly avoiding the need to bat a second time).

The three formats for cricket are different enough that separate statistics are kept for each, even though many players participate in all three. Sheffield Shield matches are classified alongside Test matches, as they only differ in running four days instead of five.

Bowling at The Gabba

I became fascinated enough with the sport that I returned to the Gabba for a later day of this match (stopping in to watch a few overs while my laundry was drying in a nearby laundromat) and again with my family a month later, to see Queensland against South Australia. I watched New Zealand wrap up its successful home series against Pakistan on TV and enjoyed listening to the Australia-New Zealand series of One-Day Internationals on the radio, as Mitchell Starc, a solid bowler and batsman, knocked one six after another. At the moment, I have to settle for listening to the Pakistan test series online, via cricket.com.au.

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Dale Ingram posted the cover of this piece of sheet music from 1920 on the "Oklahoma History -- People, Places, Things" Facebook group. He was kind enough to send me the two inside pages, too.

"The Oklahoma Oilfield Blues" was written by Jack Randolph (lyrics) and John F. Carroll (music). It was published in 1920 by the H. M. Keifer Music Pub. Co. of Pawhuska, Oklahoma. The cover, printed in blue, gold, and black, depicts a dapper man in a boater and cuffed pants sitting on a park bench and reading the "Oil and Gas News." In the background is the Minnehoma Gusher, "the 15,000 Barrel Well, PAWHUSKA, OKLAHOMA." The Minnehoma Oil Company was founded by George F. Getty, the father of J. Paul Getty.

The gusher, which came in on January 4, 1920, made national news:

OIL MEN RUSH TO NEW FIELD

(published in the El Paso Herald, January 14, 1920)

Pawhuska, Okla., Jan. 14. -- Since the Minnehoma Oil company's gusher on the Jackson-Worten lease, in the northeast corner of section 14-26-8 [5 miles W and 5 miles N of Pawhuska], came in 10 days ago, more than 100 new locations have been made and already 15 derricks have been started. Trains of trucks carrying materials to the various sites line the road from Pawhuska to the new well.

This well, the largest gusher ever brought in in Oklahoma, encountered production at 2313 feet with the drill 28 feet in the Mississippi lime. The monster flow came as a complete surprise to the owner of the well. It is the No. 3 on this quarter section. The No. 1 was abandoned as dry and the No. 2 made 25 barrels a day. Naturally when the great flow came there was not sufficient storage facilities arranged. Oil covered the ground for more than half a mile. Some 5000 gallons of oil was burned. Along the creek between the wel and the large reservoir, temporary dams were constructed and more than a dozen pumps were put in operation. In this way at least 40,000 barrels of oil valued at $100,000 was saved.

The Gulf Refining company and the Prairie Pipe line concern are rushing two lines to the well from their respective trunk lines.

Operators say that Pawhuska is surrounded by the greatest oil pool yet discovered. Within a radius of eight miles during the past two months four wells have been brought, proving the existence of as many separate fields. The last of these wells was brought in by the J. D. Wrightman company, of Tulsa, only a few days ago in section 30-[2]6-10, four miles northeast of town. This well is making a 100 barrels from the Bartlesville sand.

Still another new field was discovered when Gardner and Spencer completed their 500 barrel well on the southwest quarter of section 19-25-9 [three miles west and three miles south of Pawhuska], one mile from production.

Pawhuska is the mecca toward which Oklahoma producers are now turning and great things will happen in this field within the next few months.

A special advertising spread in the February 1, 1920, Tulsa Sunday World, celebrated Pawhuska's growth (quadrupling between 1910 and 1920) and reported that four oil fields had been found around the city in the previous 60 days and the Minnehoma Gusher had been tamed and was producing 1,000 barrels per day.

There's not much on the web about this song. In March 2007, Eric Marchese performed the song at the Orange County Ragtime Society.

Eric closed his set with a nod to the state of Oklahoma's centennial this year by playing his own, souped-up arrangement of John F. Carroll's music to "The Oklahoma Oil Field Blues," one of the few ragtime pieces to come out of the Sooner State (published in 1920 by H.M. Keifer Music Publishing Company in Pawhuska, Okla.). Again, Eric refrained from singing the piece's lyrics (by Jack Randolph) but described them (the singer longs to be back home in the oilfields where he will, presumably, one day strike it "rich as old John D."). The cover of the sheet music depicts "the Minnehoma Gusher, the 15,000-barrel well" in Pawhuska, as a young gent in a suit sits on a park bench reading a newspaper, the "Oil and Gas News."

The song also is listed in the 1920 Catalogue of Copyright Entries

The lyrics:

I love Oklahoma and the climate too.
When I leave that state I'm always feeling blue.
I want to go back there just to play the oil game,
To make some money and to win some fame.

There are men down there who just worked in the ditch,
Took a little chance and now they're more than rich.
I read all about them in the Oil and Gas News,
So that's just why I've got the oil field blues.

CHORUS:

I've got the blues,
I've got the oilfield blues,
I never felt this way.
I'm going back to a box car shack
If I have to work both night and day.
I'll save up all my money and invest you see,
And if I'm lucky I'll be rich as old John D.
Oh, boy, I've got the Oklahoma oil field blues.

According to the Long Lost Blues website, Jack Randolph and John F. Carroll also wrote the Jamaica-Ginger Blues.

(Click on each photo to see the full-sized image.)

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There are those who worry about the influence of the wealthy on federal politics but are quite blasé about the influence of the wealthy on local politics.

That slobbery, smooching sound you heard Saturday was Wayne Greene's column in the Saturday, December 31, 2016, Tulsa World, telling all of us we should accept with thanks and praise every perfect gift that comes from Our Kaiser Above.

The specific occasion is the news that a north Tulsa property owner has refused to sell his dream home and the acreage it sits on to the George Kaiser Family Foundation (GKFF), land that GKFF wants for an industrial park.

The triangle of land between 36th Street North, Mohawk Blvd, Peoria and Lewis Avenues is largely undeveloped. Dirty Butter Creek and its tributaries converge here, making it susceptible to flooding, which may explain why it was passed over by developers during Tulsa's period of northward suburban expansion in the 1950s.

This inexpensive land afforded some families the possibility of building their dream home, surrounded by woods, but close to the conveniences of the city. Along the north side of Mohawk Blvd, far from the creeks, several attractive, large homes were built on small acreages. All but one of these have now been acquired and removed; one remains, owned by Charles and Rebecca Williams, and they have refused to take an offer that is twice the assessor's estimate of their property's value.

The Tulsa World published a story about the Williamses early last week. A few mildly negative comments about Kaiser on that article prompted Greene's column.

It's ironic that whoever headlined Greene's column used the term "local hero" to refer to George Kaiser. There's a movie called Local Hero, one of my all-time favorites, set in a little seaside village in Scotland. The hero of the title is the one property owner who refuses to sell to an American billionaire for a massive industrial project.

Let's examine a few of the things Greene says in his column:

The city's $10 million infrastructure participation in the project was thoroughly debated during the Vision tax extension process. It had the support of the municipal political leadership for the area at the time and was approved by the City Council. Subsequently, voters signed off on the Vision package, including the industrial park.

I suspect the only topic of debate was "will this project get more votes for the dams?" As I wrote back before the vote, the suspiciously round numbers allocated for many of the projects suggest that no serious effort was made to estimate the actual cost for the proposed projects. "If I were a cynic, I might believe that the City Council had no interest in whether these projects were feasible or appropriately budgeted. I might believe, were I a cynic, that these items were included just to get a few more hundred voters to the polls in the mood to vote yes on everything." What exactly was $10 million supposed to cover? It looks like a payola project -- not a serious effort to fund a well-defined project.

The "municipal political leadership for the area at the time" appears to refer to City Councilor Jack Henderson. Northside community leaders complained that the priorities expressed by residents were ignored by Henderson and the council in favor of their own pet projects. Projects associated with a long-term neighborhood planning effort for the 36th Street North corridor were left on the cutting-room floor. Henderson lost his bid for re-election this November to one of the leading critics of his choice of projects.

As to how thoroughly it was debated: Going back through news coverage prior to the election, I find nothing that specified where the proposed industrial park would be located, nothing more specific than "North Peoria." It appears that it was only after the vote took place that the specific location, which isn't even adjacent to Peoria Ave., was identified.

In hindsight, it appears that the reason the 36th Street North small area plan was ignored in Vision Tulsa is because it conflicted with GKFF's intentions and two years of behind-the-scenes land acquisition. Neighborhood stakeholders, working with city planners, identified the undeveloped land between Dirty Butter Creek, Mohawk, and 36th Street North as ripe for new single-family residential development, not as the site for a major industrial facility. Was there anyone on the City Council or in the Mayor's office who would champion the wishes of local residents over the plans of a billionaire's foundation? There used to be. Now we have a mayor who used to be a lobbyist for the billionaire's foundation.

Greene mistakenly believes the new Macy's distribution center will be in Owasso:

Eventually, the project is envisioned to be the home to 1,000 quality jobs, which could be the beginning of the economic turnaround north Tulsa has wanted for years. Want to know why the Macy's distribution center ended up in Owasso and not Tulsa? Owasso had a site that was ready to go. Tulsa didn't.

While it's true that the Macy's center site is near Owasso, and the land used to be owned by an entity called the Owasso Land Trust (despite the name, a commercial entity, not governmental), the site is actually within the City of Tulsa's municipal fence line -- unincorporated land that Tulsa could annex but which is protected against annexation by Owasso or any other city or town. (Presumably Tulsa does not annex this property or other nearby facilities in the Cherokee Industrial Park because it's more attractive to businesses if they don't have to pay city sales tax, use tax, or property tax and if they don't have to put up with city regulations.)

A bit further on in the column, Greene praises the many donations GKFF has made to keep local non-profits running. He continues:

Of course, that hardly scratches the surface of the efforts of the Kaiser foundation to improve Tulsa. From the city's national model early childhood education program to the game-changing A Gathering Place for Tulsa under construction along Riverside Drive, almost all of the good things going on in our community have the leadership (and funding) of the Kaiser foundation.

Whatever you may think of the two specific items mentioned in this paragraph, that last line goes way over the top in its praise of GKFF, or else it reveals Greene's tunnel vision, limiting civic life to a handful of big, highly publicized projects. I could list dozens of job-creating companies, innovative entrepreneurs, charitable and educational initiatives, none of which have anything to do with Kaiser or his foundation.

As to those two examples: Research has failed to show a positive impact on learning outcomes for all the massive public and private investment in putting what we used to call preschool-aged children into classrooms. Making it more affordable for one parent to stay home, parents being married and staying married, connection with a faith community all do more to help children learn and grow. The Gathering Place looks like it will be a lovely park, but hardly "game-changing." GKFF is putting another park in walking distance of a number of other lovely parks and some of Tulsa's wealthiest neighborhoods, while working-class neighborhoods often lack parks, shopping, or any other outdoor space where neighbors might gather. North Tulsa has been particularly hard hit with the removal of recreation centers and swimming pools in recent years.

Greene confesses to having a small flowering plant related to the pea and legume families with GKFF:

You can complain about whatever your particular vetch is with the Kaiser foundation. Personally, I wish the Gathering Place project would get done faster. I miss running along the river and when I drive south the Peoria Avenue detour taunts me with the memories of Riverside Drive.

But that doesn't prevent me from recognizing that my relatively minor inconveniences and the hundreds of millions of dollars marshaled by the Kaiser foundation are going to one day give Tulsa one of the most magnificent community parks in the world, the sort of thing that could help propel Tulsa socially and economically.

I think he means "kvetch," a Yiddish word that can either be a verb (to complain) or a noun (a persistent complainer). One dictionary says it can be used to mean "complaint," but I've never come across that.

The notion that a park, however magnificent, could "propel Tulsa socially and economically" again reveals that Greene's view of civic life is far too narrow.

Greene's little complaint ought to stir a doubt in his mind: How is it that a private organization is granted permission to shut down major public thoroughfares for two years? Even public construction projects are rarely permitted to shutdown a road completely. Ordinarily, public need and convenience would be balanced against the presumed cost and schedule savings of a total shutdown.

That GKFF was able to get a two-year total shutdown of Riverside Drive and the Midland Valley Trail without a murmur of protest from city officials ought to frighten Greene. We can be appreciative of a billionaire's generosity, but we need city officials and the media to remain on guard, to scrutinize his plans and his actions, particularly as they interact with public infrastructure and public policy.

There are strong incentives for city officials and columnists to be good yacht guests, fending off criticisms and keeping their own qualms to themselves. They might want GKFF's support for their own pet projects. They might hope someday to work for a GKFF-funded organization or might have a relative who works for one. The elected officials don't want Kaiser and affiliated donors and PACs to fund an opponent in the next election.

Wouldn't it be lovely if Tulsa had leaders willing to defend plans developed by their fellow citizens against changes pushed by billionaires? We did, about 10 years ago, but they've all been run off and replaced with rubber stamps. I won't hold my breath waiting for things to change.

MORE: There's an interesting pattern in the sales records for the parcels that are proposed to become an industrial park. Nearly all of the parcels I checked were first acquired by Mapleview Acquisitions I LLC, whose registered agent is former Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission chairman Joseph M. Westervelt. Many of the properties were then conveyed to NP36 LLC (registered agent Frederic Dorwart) in a multi-parcel transaction on December 8, 2016, although some parcels appear to be owned still by Mapleview Acquisitions I LLC, according to records on the county assessor's website. Westervelt is notable for his efforts to frustrate and undermine implementation of the Pearl District small-area plan; makes sense that he'd be involved in a development that undermines the 36th Street North small-area plan.

A message from the Prime Minister of Israel from the courtyard of the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem:

To all of our Christian friends around the world, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I send you these greetings from Jerusalem. I'm standing in the courtyard of this magnificent International Christian Embassy. I'm so proud of our relations with our Christian brothers and sisters. I wonder for many of you if you remember the experience you had when you first visited Israel, when you saw the Church of the Holy Sepulchre or the Via Dolorosa or the Sea of Galilee or Nazareth. I'm sure it moved you deeply.

And it moves us deeply to have this bond with you because we all know that this land of Israel is the land of our common heritage. It changed the story of humanity, it changed civilization. What a magnificent heritage it is. Yet, we also know that it is under attack these days, that the forces of intolerance, of barbarism that attack all religions attack Christians with particular vehemence. We stand with you and I'm proud of the fact that in Israel, this is the one place in the Middle East that the Christian community not only survives but thrives and it's no accident. It's because of our commitment to religious freedom; it's because of our embrace of our heritage; it's because of our embrace of our common future.

For many Americans, Rick Steves is the guru of European travel, specifically of an approach to travel he calls "through the back door" -- skipping the high-priced hotels, chain restaurants, and tourist traps which insulate you in an American bubble, and instead encountering authentic local culture, staying at B&Bs, hostels, and pensions, eating where the locals do, and seeing historical attractions that are off-the-beaten path. The front door is formal, where strangers ring the bell; the back door is where you welcome friends and neighbors for a cup of coffee at the kitchen table.

My wife and I first encountered his work in the late 1980s, and used it to plan visits to central Europe and the British Isles. Even when we didn't follow his specific recommendations, his approach to travel guided ours and led us to some memorable people and places.

Steves is an admirer of European social democracy, a self-described progressive Lutheran, and a resident of Seattle. In his latest Facebook post, he discusses the difficulty he has in discussing the election results with his European friends.

Europeans are struggling to understand the anger and energy coming from the slice of America that voted for Trump. And I am, too. From my point of view, working class Americans voted against a candidate who supported things that would seem to benefit them -- like higher minimum wages, affordable health care, and free community college. But clearly, those voters see things differently.

This election has nudged me to get out of my West Coast bubble and try to better understand parts of my own country that I rarely visit. In an honest attempt to empathize with red state voters, I read "Strangers in Their Own Land" by Arlie Russell Hochschild -- and found it quite enlightening.

Steves links to a blog post that he calls "my little 'book report' -- a collection of my notes, summaries, and favorite passages from 'Strangers in Their Own Land'."

The post is full of condescending generalizations about middle America and southerners in particular. A few examples -- and keep in mind that words below seem mainly to be quotes from or Steves's paraphrases of Hochschild's words, and not necessarily Steves's own thoughts.:

The Tea Party is more than a political group -- it's a culture. Traveling through red America, you notice this culture: No New York Times in newsstands, no organic produce in grocery stores, no foreign films. Fewer small cars, fewer petite sizes in clothing stores, fewer pedestrian zones, more pit bulls and bulldogs, fewer bicycle lanes, fewer color-coded recycling bins, fewer solar panels. Cafés with virtually everything on the menu fried. Lottery machines in bus stations. No gluten-free entrees. Lots of signs advertising personal injury lawyers....

The key issues: small government, guns, low taxes, prohibition of abortion. It's natural for a blue state person to marvel at how red state voters seem to vote against their economic interest. But it's not about money. It's a political high, emotional self-interest. A disdain for federal money helping them out. (Hillary's offer of higher minimum wages, free community college, affordable health care was ignored or even ridiculed.)

Emotional self-interest -- freedom from being a stranger in one's own land -- was what got traction in 2016. Trump supporters happily overlooked all the contradictions (and even blatant lies) to protect their elation. Liberals can't stop thinking, "But it's a lie!" The fact is, Tea Party Americans willingly and knowingly accept lies because they care about other things -- emotional needs -- much more.

Pretty sure I've seen the New York Times for sale here, although newsstands are hard to find anymore. Plenty of conservatives in these parts are also gluten-free and choose organic produce when they can or -- gasp! -- even grow their own vegetables and raise their own chickens. We have bike lanes, and conservatives are some of the most avid cyclists I know.

As for "emotional self-interest" and believing in lies, we believe that the left is selling lies. We know that "free" community college -- like any transaction involving a third-party payer -- is a license for college administrators to build their empires without having to worry that higher costs will drive away customers. We know that the Affordable Care Act has made medical care less affordable and less accessible than it was before for the vast majority of Americans. We know that involving the government in the economy inevitably leads to shortages and rationing. We know that higher minimum wages increases costs to consumers and gives employers incentives to automate and eliminate jobs.

We know what Rick Steves does not seem to know -- there is no such thing as a free lunch. We see that his beloved Europe is drowning in debt, imploding demographically, unable to sustain its welfare state without an influx of immigrants who don't share modern European values. We see the Left's disdain for the old values of European Christendom which built the monuments and villages and customs and traditions that he admires. We see Europe -- and Blue America -- as a cut-flower society, detached from the sources from which it drew nourishment, its apparent vitality beginning to fade and wilt.

Steves has a huge blind spot. For 30 years or more, he has been encouraging Americans to travel to Europe, to meet Europeans first-hand. He would never want you or me to feel that we know Europe because we read a book about it by an American author who looks down on Europeans and their ways, who confirms the basest prejudices against Europeans. Can you imagine Steves saying, "You don't need to visit Gimmelwald. Sean Hannity's latest book will tell you all you need to know about the Swiss." And yet he is willing to let a condescending American author shape his understanding of the Middle American voters who didn't want Hillary Clinton to be president.

Rick Steves needs to apply his own philosophy to his own country. He needs to visit the small towns and big cities of the American heartland. He should pick up a copy of Jane and Michael Stern's Roadfood and hit the best diners in every state, talking to the customers and waitresses and cooks. Visit Pennsylvania -- the middle part between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia -- West Virginia, Oklahoma, west Texas, rural Wisconsin. Visit a variety of churches -- big suburban megachurches, small country Baptist churches, PCA congregations, Catholic parishes -- and hang out between Sunday School and worship to chat over coffee. Better yet, see what these churches are doing during the week to provide for the physical needs of their communities. Talk to the homeschooling moms who come to Bibliomania Bookstore in Tulsa to buy curriculum and materials for their kids. Visit the lay Catholics who have decided to build a community around Clear Creek Monastery. Sit in the stands for a high school basketball game or stand on the sidelines for a pee-wee soccer match.

Rick Steves needs to extend to his own countrymen and their attitudes and customs the same respect and understanding that he readily extends to Europeans. Steves celebrates the diversity to be found in Europe's various nations and regions, the peculiarities that reflect each locale's unique history. He deplores the homogenizing forces of mass culture and multinational conglomerates. Conservatism, as Russell Kirk expounds it, prefers the culture and institutions that spring from the local community to alien values, enforced from afar, yet Steves's fellow liberals want to impose their own values and ways on all of America. The left-wing commenters on his blog and on Facebook go well beyond condescension and incomprehension to full-blown contempt and hatred for their fellow Americans.

Rick, it's time to go "through the back door" to get to know the strangers with whom you share a country. You'll find a warm welcome, and you'll learn some things you don't know.

Republican presidential electors have been deluged with pleas to vote for someone other than Donald Trump.

Donald Trump is still unfit to be President of the United States (as is Hillary Clinton, as is Gary Johnson, each in their own way). I wish that, when the Electoral College meets tomorrow in state capitols across the nation, enough Republican electors would vote for a stable, principled conservative candidate to deprive Trump of an electoral college majority, and that the House would then choose said stable, principled conservative candidate to serve as president. But it is not going to happen.

It's true that Trump has announced some good choices for his cabinet. Scott Pruitt for EPA administrator is a particularly welcome choice; Pruitt will execute the EPA's responsibilities without going beyond the agency's authority in law. On the other hand, Trump's pick for Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, is a globalist who sees national borders as obstacles rather than protections and who pressured the Boy Scouts of America to back down its principled stand against the Sexual Revolution. Trump's choice of a Goldman Sachs executive as Secretary of Treasury suggests that Trump's campaign rhetoric was just him saying whatever he thought he needed to say to win.

I like some of Trump's announced policies, but many of the policies I like are contradicted by other announced policies. It did not bother me a bit for him to take a congratulatory call from the president of the Republic of China, a nation attempting to hold on to what little territory it has left after the Communist revolution drove them off the mainland. It bothers me that he seems to accept or ignore Russia's aggression-by-proxy against Ukraine.

Trump is impulsive, too lazy or impressed by his own instincts to consider implications before speaking or tweeting, too easily distracted by insults to his pride to be entrusted with the power of the American presidency. Republican electors would be acting as patriots if they voted to deny him the office.

I wish I could depend upon Republican majorities in the House and Senate or the leadership of the Republican Party to act as a check on his most dangerous impulses, but I see nothing in their actions since Trump clinched the nomination to persuade me that they're willing to resist him. They see his apparent popularity as a bandwagon to jump aboard or at least as a steamroller to get out of the way of.

Is there a legitimate reason for electors to deny the presidency to Trump? It was the intention of the Framers of the Constitution that the selection of a president should be insulated from popular passions. They intended that the people would only select trustworthy men who would in turn choose a Chief Executive. But the framers didn't reckon on the rise of political parties and the idea of electors already pledged to support a specific candidate. They certainly didn't foresee a future in which a major political party was reduced to a hollow shell, a mere mechanism devoid of principle or platform, taken over by a pop-culture celebrity.

The expectation for over a century has been that voters in each state are really voting for president and vice president and only incidentally for a slate of electors who are pledged to vote for the preferred presidential candidate. Despite this expectation, and despite the laws and oaths that seek to turn this expectation into a legally binding commitment, electors have the freedom to vote as they see fit.

It's been claimed that voters chose these electors because they wanted Donald Trump to be president. I'm sure that's true for many voters, particularly in the once-reliably Democrat Rust Belt states that voted Republican this year and who saw Trump as the first champion for their concerns (even though Rick Santorum ran on the same approach to trade in 2012). On the other hand, many voters voted Republican only because they didn't want Hillary Clinton to be president, and they would be relieved if a conservative wound up as president instead of Trump.

In any event, the Republicans who were nominated to be electors were elected knowing that they would be expected to vote for the party's nominee. In Oklahoma, five electors were nominated by congressional district conventions when the nomination was still in doubt, and the other two were nominated by the state executive committee and ratified by the state convention after Trump's rivals dropped out of the race. These people were chosen because they were known by their fellow activists as committed to the party and its principles. These electors signed notarized pledges to vote for the nominee, and many of them have cited those pledges as reason enough to vote for Trump, no matter their personal view of Trump's character or instability. They aren't going to vote for another Republican, much less a left-wing Democrat.

Democrat calls for electors to vote for Hillary Clinton because she "won" the popular vote are either naive or disingenuous. Does anyone believe that Democrats would be calling for elector independence if Hillary Clinton had won Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania?

The popular vote is an irrelevant metric. The rules, as set out by the Constitution and the state laws that govern the election of presidential electors, make the presidential election into 56 separate contests -- 50 statewide contests, one in the District of Columbia, plus separate contests in the three congressional districts of Nebraska and the two districts of Maine -- each of which awards a varying number of "points." If the game was scored differently, the strategy would be different. If the Big 12 football title was awarded based strictly on point differential instead of won-loss record, you'd keep the first string in against a weak team and run up the score rather than resting your starters once the game was well in hand. If the World Series title was awarded based on total runs, you'd burn up your bullpen to stop more runs being scored, even if you're already down by 10 in that game. If the presidential contest were a national popular vote, candidates would allocate their resources differently. Voter behavior would change as well. A conservative who felt free to vote third-party or not at all because either Trump or Hillary led by a wide margin in his state might have cast an anti-Hillary vote for Trump in a national popularity contest.

And don't trot out the argument that the electoral college gives too much power to small states. Any inequality in the number of citizens per electoral vote is just a reflection of the inequality in the number of citizens per seat in Congress, a product of Congress's unwillingness, under Democrat and Republican majorities alike, to expand its numbers with the population for the last 100 years. (UPDATE: But see below: While a larger House would even out population per electoral vote, it wouldn't have changed the outcome of this election, because California was entirely responsible for Hillary Clinton's popular-vote lead.)

If you want #HamiltonElectors -- electors who fulfill the role envisioned by Alexander Hamilton in Federalist No. 68 -- you have to have a system for electing them. As long as electors are nominated by political parties and as long as political parties select presidential nominees before the electors go before the voters, the status quo will prevail. Make it easier in your state for citizens to run as independent, unpledged electors, and then vote for them, if you want things to change. Abolish the state party rules and state laws that require elector nominees to bind themselves to a presidential candidate. I'll believe that Democrats want #HamiltonElectors and indirect democracy when they start calling for the repeal of the 17th Amendment and a return to indirect election of senators.

Even in its present desiccated state, the Electoral College still serves a couple of important purposes -- it acts as a firewall, restricting the effects of voter fraud in one state to that state's outcome, and it ensures that no one can be elected president without support from the breadth of the nation. Out-of-step, shrinking, but still-populous California cannot dictate to the rest of the nation who will be president.

But I still wish that Republican electors would vote for someone else -- perhaps Mike Pence -- instead of Donald Trump. (The choice of Pence would have some legitimacy, as he was nominated by the Republican Party, was on the ballot as the vice presidential nominee, and was not one of Trump's defeated rivals for the nomination.) I reject the argument that because a safety mechanism hasn't been used before, we can't use it now -- the same argument that was used against a delegate revolt at the Republican National Convention.

The electoral principles outlined by Hamilton in Federalist No. 68 are sound, but the system no longer produces the result Hamilton expected. The culture and its influencers will first have to regain respect for the value of indirect election, and states and parties will have to eliminate those practices which work against indirect election.

UPDATE: The electoral vote tally, according to reports from all 50 states and the District of Columbia: Trump 304, Clinton 227, Colin Powell 3 (Democrat electors in Washington state), Faith Spotted Eagle 1 (Democrat elector in Washington), Bernie Sanders 1 (Democrat elector in Hawaii), Ron Paul 1 (Republican elector in Texas), John Kasich 1 (Republican elector in Texas.) So a total of 2 Republican electors and 5 Democrat electors voted for a candidate other than the party nominee.

Four Texas Republican electors were no-shows, possibly because they did not want to vote for Trump, but felt bound by their pledges. The four vacancies were filled by a vote of the remaining 34 Texas electors. One Texas elector resigned following the November election rather than vote for Trump and was replaced by someone who would.

Three other Democrat electors tried to vote for someone else but were prevented: A Maine elector voted for Sanders but was forced to change vote to Clinton. A Minnesota elector submitted a blank ballot but was replaced by an alternate who voted for Clinton. A Colorado Democrat elector tried to vote for Kasich and was dismissed in favor of an alternate who voted for Clinton. A Fox 31 Denver news report has more on the intent behind the Colorado elector lawsuit.

MORE: Would a bigger House of Representatives have changed the outcome by reducing the small-state advantage in population per electoral vote? With 435 House members and 538 electoral votes, there are 3.6 times more people per electoral vote in California (677,345) than in Wyoming (187,875). If the House had 10,000 members -- getting us very close to the Article I minimum of 30,000 people per apportioned House seat -- there would be 10,103 members of the Electoral College, and the residents-to-electoral-vote ratio would be a maximum of 30,763 in California to a minimum of 28,025 in North Dakota, a difference of only 9.8%. Still, the result would be 5,699 votes for Trump to 4,404 for Clinton. That's assuming that all of Maine's 45 electoral votes went to Clinton and all of Nebraska's 63 electoral votes went to Trump, when voting by congressional district would likely have split off some of each state's vote for the other candidate.

Clinton's problem is that all of her national margin (2,864,974 more votes than Trump) came from her blowout win in California (4,269,978 more votes than Trump). Even if the entire nation chose electors by congressional district, Clinton likely would have lost, because her popular vote was highly concentrated. Her margins in Los Angeles County (1,694,621) and the five boroughs of New York City (1,670,027) are enough to account for her entire national lead. (If you're curious, the margin in Cook County, Illinois, was 1,158,659. Trump won Illinois minus Cook County. The three counties of Florida's Gold Coast -- Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach -- gave Clinton a 684,787 vote margin.)

I had occasion Saturday afternoon to travel to Joplin with my dad (a seasonal celebrity), who was making an appearance at the Sam's Club there. There was freezing rain in the forecast, so I spent some time before leaving town looking for current weather and road condition information.

Getting current information about Missouri road conditions was easy. That link leads to an interactive map showing you whether a segment of road is clear, mostly clear, partly covered with ice/snow, covered, or closed. Icons show construction closures and major wrecks, which can be clicked to show more information. For example, within a few minutes of a semi-trailer wreck at mile 49 of I-44, east of Mount Vernon, Mo., the map showed an icon indicating that the wreck occurred at 5:30 pm, that the right lane was blocked, and that it would be about 2 hours before both lanes were reopened to traffic.

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The Oklahoma road conditions map, by contrast, assigned three conditions to the roads -- moderate, severe, closed -- and the same condition was applied to all the roads in a county (with the exception of turnpikes). While Missouri drew a distinction between roads which were known to be clear and roads for which the condition was unknown, Oklahoma's map showed both as unhighlighted. Clicking on the Oklahoma map produced the same boilerplate text for the condition shown -- no location-specific information.

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Another thing I did to prepare for the trip was to be sure I was subscribed to Twitter feeds for the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority, Oklahoma Department of Transportation, Missouri Department of Transportation - Southwest, and National Weather Service offices in Tulsa and Springfield, and to turn on mobile notifications -- sending any new tweets to my phone. I had hoped that these agencies would use social media to provide up-to-the-minute news on road conditions and closures. Not so much.

As we drove northeast on the Will Rogers Turnpike, we started to encounter freezing drizzle around the Foyil exit. We had to stop at midway to clear the ice around the edges of the windshield and on the wipers. As we got closer to Big Cabin, we drove past a couple of jack-knifed trucks off the side of the road-- they evidently hit patches of ice on the bridges. (Thanks to the warm temperatures a day earlier, the ice was melting when it hit the road surface -- except on the bridges.) Past the Afton exit, traffic came to a stop.

Ten minutes later, it began moving again, but we soon learned that the Highway Patrol was directing all traffic off of the turnpike. A patrol car blocked the eastbound lanes, and Miami police cruisers were keeping traffic from entering the turnpike in either direction. We rerouted via OK-10 and MO-43, which added about 30 minutes to the trip but had very little traffic.

When did the OTA take to Twitter to notify motorists that the turnpike was closed? Over an hour later, at 4:39 pm. The OTA telephone hotline (1-877-403-7623), supposed to have to have the latest information about turnpike conditions, had not been updated since Friday morning, according to a tweet at 3:28 pm Saturday. It was updated at 5:30 to report that eastbound Will Rogers Turnpike was closed but one lane was open westbound.

Meanwhile, on Twitter, OTA reported at 5:09: "WILL ROGERS TURNPIKE HAS ONE LANE WESTBOUND OPEN AT THIS TIME. EASTBOUND STILL CLOSED."

At 6:00 pm: "WILL ROGERS TURNPIKE EB REMAINS CLOSED DUE TO ICE AND ACCIDENTS. TURNER TURNPIKE IS OPEN IN ALL DIRECTIONS." My question in reply at 6:03 pm -- "What is the plan for salting and sanding Will Rogers Turnpike?" -- went unanswered.

There were no further updates from OTA until they replied to my 8:38 pm tweet noting the lack of hotline updates. Even then, it took another question from me to elicit the information that the closure was only from the Miami exit eastward.

It's a big deal for an interstate highway on a major cross-continent route to be shut down for hours. Twitter, the web, even telephone hotlines offer a quick and inexpensive way to communicate information and keep it current, but only if officials make it their job to provide precise and frequent updates and to respond promptly to questions.

A closing question: How is it that it was safer to drive on the taxpayer-funded side roads than the user-funded toll roads? Shouldn't some of those big toll dollars have gone into salting the turnpike, preventing accidents, and keeping the road open?

ONE MORE THING: OKDOT's 8 p.m. Saturday news release neglects to mention that the Will Rogers Turnpike is closed east of Miami. Did they not know, or did OKDOT not mention it since the turnpike is OTA's responsibility and not OKDOT's? Do they expect travelers to know that there are two different agencies overseeing road conditions?

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IMAG0490.jpgA series of encounters led to an opportunity to appear on 612 ABC Brisbane (the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's locally focused station) to talk about the aftermath of the U. S. presidential election.

In late October, I was walking in the Spring Hill neighborhood north of the Brisbane CBD, looking for an affordable alternative to the hotel's unaffordable laundry service. I came across two young men standing on a street corner with a small metal easel sign identifying one of them as Trevor Evans, the Member of Federal Parliament for Brisbane, who was holding a "mobile office" -- making himself available to any of his constituents who might want to bend his ear. I stopped and introduced myself, and we talked about the recent Australian elections, the looming US election, and the excitement I'd witnessed at Prime Minister's Question Time in Canberra the previous week. As the conversation wound down, I asked Mr. Evans if he knew where Brisbanites interested in American politics might gather to watch the returns. He had heard something about a gathering at the Norman Hotel -- thought it was being sponsored by AmCham, the American Chamber of Commerce in Australia -- but he'd be in Canberra on the day.

It wasn't AmCham -- I called, and they knew nothing about it -- but it took me until the day of the event to find out that the sponsor was the Australian American Association. The deadline had passed a week earlier. A phone call went to voice mail, but someone responded to a Facebook message and said come ahead.

As the results started to roll in, a 612 ABC reporter doing a live report from the party wanted comments from a Republican and a Democrat, so I volunteered. The Democrat was a woman who had moved to Australia 20 years or so previously but still voted back in the US. The reporter asked if Trump's apparent win was the last gasp of the white conservative Christian male.

A couple of days later, one of the AAA leaders phoned to say 612 ABC had contacted him in search of a Republican to participate in a studio discussion about the election. I was interested, so he connected me with Sunday morning host Rebecca Levingston, who filled me in on the topics she wanted to discuss. Rebecca told me that her go-to Republican had moved to Perth, and she likes to have guests in studio for these discussions.

Sunday morning I strolled across the Victoria Bridge to the 612 ABC studios in South Bank. Rebecca was at her desk in the bullpen, prepping for the show, and she showed me to the green room, where I was joined a few minutes later by my Democrat counterpart, Peter Axelrod, an aviation attorney originally from New York by way of San Francisco, who had settled in Brisbane about 15 years ago, and his wife, a native Aussie. We had a nice chat, and I was surprised to learn how small the general aviation sector is in Australia, given the vast distances that have to be covered. (This is a country where your doctor may make house calls by plane, and you might talk to your school teacher over the radio.) Regulation holds back the industry.

(Somewhat related: I met some Americans at the hotel who were private pilots and would be touring Australia by air -- this sort of thing. They had to do a checkride on their first day in country to qualify for the trip.)

We were led into the studio by the producer. Peter had come prepared with an article from NPR and some other material, which he had sent to Rebecca ahead of time, and which he let me look over. (It reminded me of the way I used to show up to my weekly slot on KFAQ with pages of background material.) Here's Peter and Rebecca in the studio:

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Rebecca was a very gracious host, who asked intelligent questions and was fair and balanced. If she had a political leaning, it wasn't apparent.

The conversation began with Rebecca asking for our reaction to the results. I said that I was relieved that Hillary Clinton would not be president, but apprehensive that Trump will be president. We also discussed prospective appointments (Newt Gingrich and Rudy Giuliani were still possibilities in that first week after the election), presidential power and checks and balances on those powers, filibusters, Obamacare, the electoral college, election turnout, the National Popular Vote proposal, and the need for reform of the nominating process. The final section of the conversation was about the prospects for Trump's promises.

My favorite moment was using a cricket analogy to explain the electoral college and getting a laugh and a complement from Rebecca. The context: South Africa had beaten Australia in the first match of a three-match test series by 177 runs, the latest failure in a long string of Australian losses in international cricket. But if Australia would win the remaining two matches by one run each, they'd win the series, even though their run total would still be 175 less than South Africa's. That's because the series is won by winning a majority of matches, not by getting the highest run total. If the winning criteria were different, you'd use different strategy. (As it happened, Australia lost the second match, too, failing to score as many runs in two innings as South Africa managed in one. After a massive overhaul of the lineup, Australia won the third test handily by seven wickets.)

Here's the whole segment, which runs about 20 minutes.

612 ABC Brisbane was my preferred listening when driving around town or on excursions around southeast Queensland. I appreciated the conversational approach -- where guests had time to develop ideas -- and the variety of serious and silly topics. As I find them online, I hope to share some of the segments that I found particularly interesting.

You can listen to 612 ABC Brisbane on their website or via various apps. ABC Radio has an archive of interviews and conversations on Soundcloud, as does 612 ABC Brisbane.

My other favorite radio station was 1296 4RPH -- Reading for the Print Handicapped. Most of the station's schedule consists of volunteers reading articles from the local and national newspapers and a variety of magazines and books. The articles are often long-form essays, including political analysis, book reviews, and arts criticism. It was real food for thought while driving or taking care of routine tasks. They also carry BBC World Service during the overnight hours and daily broadcasts from two American evangelical broadcasters -- John MacArthur ("Grace to You") and Chuck Swindoll ("Insight for Living"). You can listen to 4RPH via the TuneIn radio app.

Newly sworn-in Tulsa Mayor G. T. Bynum IV has appointed outgoing mayor Dewey F. Bartlett Jr. to the City of Tulsa-Rogers County Port Authority.

The Tulsa World published a list of 52 appointments by Bynum IV to authorities, boards, and commissions. By my quick count, 23 are reappointments to the same position on the same board. The "new" appointments include the familiar names of frequent appointees to boards and commissions and City Hall insiders. A few examples: Longtime trash board member Cheryl Cohenour to the Greater Tulsa Indian Affairs Commission, former Metropolitan Environmental Trust chief Michael Patton to the trash board, Bama Pie chairman Paula Marshall to the Port Authority, school board member Lana Turner-Addison to the Sales Tax Overview Committee, former State Rep. Darrell Gilbert to the Ethics Advisory Commission.

Some reappointments hint at the likely direction of the Bynum administration -- namely no change in direction. Bynum has reappointed Toby Jenkins, head of Oklahomans for Forcing Other Oklahomans to Pretend There's No Difference Between Natural Marriage and Gay "Marriage," to the Human Rights Commission. Both appointments to the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission are reappointments, so if you bet that Bynum would take a fresh approach to development and land use, you just lost your bet. Ditto for the two reappointments to the Tulsa Development [Urban Renewal] Authority.

I see no reason to stop referring to the new mayor and the old mayor as Tweedledee IV and Tweedledum Jr. Politicians used to promise a chicken in every pot. Under Mayor Bynum IV, we'll have water in the river and a perverted man in every ladies' locker room. Prosperity is just around the corner!

Scenes from around Australia illustrate aircraft safety procedures. The brace position demonstration made my wife laugh out loud. Josephine Falls looks like fun. And that's an impressive beard at Lefroy Flats.

BONUS:

How to produce Australian vowels: The long "O" sound amuses me. Women particularly seem to draw it out -- even radio announcers.

In 1908, just seven years after Australia's federation, a young woman named Dorothea Mackellar wrote a tribute to her homeland. The poem, "My Country," is sometimes called by the first line of its second verse, the beginning of the poem proper after a prefatory stanza.

I love a sunburnt country, A land of sweeping plains, Of ragged mountain ranges, Of droughts and flooding rains. I love her far horizons, I love her jewel-sea, Her beauty and her terror - The wide brown land for me!

Here is audio of the poet herself reciting her work, many years later, accompanied by photos of Australia that illustrate "sapphire-misted mountains," "pitiless blue sky," "jewel sea" -- this "wilful, lavish land."

Mackellar was a third-generation Australian, whose grandparents arrived from Scotland in 1839. Her official website describes the sentiment that produced this poem.

The first draft of My Country was written in England when Miss. Mackellar was feeling homesick for Australia. Dorothea Mackellar wanted the verse to express her deep and true love for her country. It was re-written several times before a satisfactory completion.

She resented the tendency of acquaintances in her youth to discredit Australia, and to refer to England as 'Home'. As a young girl Dorothea was clearly aware of the variety and beauty presented by the Australian landscape. The majority of her poetry has taken its imagery from her love of the natural Australian scenery. The original title for "My Country" was "Core of My Heart", and was the title used when the poem was first published in 1908, in the London Spectator Magazine.

Here is a choral setting of the poem:

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Donald Trump is making the 'Great Man' theory of history great again - Business Insider

Interesting article by David A. Bell, a professor of history at Princeton. Bell begins by reciting some cases in which the personalities of world leaders appear to have been decisive in the course of world history -- Lincoln, Churchill, Hitler, Stalin are given as examples -- reinforcing the "Great Man" theory of history, a theory often dismissed by modern historians.

"Despite the vast power at the disposal of the American president, most occupants of that office, even when commanding congressional majorities, have felt constrained by a host of structural conditions of one sort or another. They want to avoid spooking the stock market, damaging their party's chances in future elections, upsetting carefully negotiated diplomatic agreements, and so on and so forth. They almost certainly have a lower estimate of their own power than almost anyone else. But these constraints, which change far more slowly than a president's moods, make the actions they take more predictable and therefore more easily subject to social scientific analysis.

"Donald Trump, however, is so willful and thin-skinned, so convinced of his own abilities, so enamored of his own unpredictability, and at the same time so unable to concentrate on any particular issue, that he is far less likely to appreciate the constraints that have weighed so heavily on his predecessors or even to understand them. He is also far less likely to listen to his advisors, and these advisers themselves are, overall, far more ignorant of their supposed areas of expertise than any other group of high-level administration officials in American history.

"Even in crisis situations, U.S. presidents have generally done their best to follow predictable, well-established decision-making protocols. The television shows that present a president making hugely consequential decisions under pressure, from the gut, with only a handful of close aides in the room, eliminate from the picture the vast bureaucratic operations that exist to provide information, to evaluate the reliability of that information, to analyze it, and to game out the possible consequences of different courses of action. Up to now, presidents have generally respected these bureaucracies in most cases. They know how important it is, in a world of nuclear weapons, for there to be steady, predictable protocols for resolving crises. They remember all too well that during the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, only the steadfastness of a single Soviet military officer kept a submarine commander from launching a tactical nuclear weapon against an American destroyer, possibly provoking nuclear war (if you don't know the story, read this). Donald Trump, alas, is almost certainly less likely to follow established protocols than any of his predecessors. In a crisis situation, how is he likely to react? Can anyone know?"

The Man Who Became Donald Trump - POLITICO Magazine

"For Reines, who thought he was playing a historic role in helping elect the next president, the months he spent studying Trump's every word and gesture have transformed into something else, now that Clinton lost and Trump won: They've given him a unique perspective into the mind and behavior of the president-elect.

"Reines hasn't talked about the experience publicly until now. But nine days before Trump was set to be sworn in as the country's 45th president, he sat down with POLITICO and opened up about what living like Trump taught him about what to expect when Trump's unusual psyche collides with the unique demands of the American presidency. Looking ahead to the inauguration and beyond, Reines thinks Trump's biggest challenge is going to come from within himself....

"To attribute forethought to how and when Trump tweets, or how he comes to a decision, is to misunderstand the instinctual player who might not be strategic but certainly recognizes the upside of simply being himself, according to Reines. 'I think of it like a pinball machine, where Congress are the bumpers, the machine says tilt, no one controls where the ball goes, and the player, at best, is just playing goalie,' says Reines. 'Trump is not the player, he's the ball," he adds. "The truth is the ball doesn't know what it's about to do.'

"President Trump will be more preoccupied with being able to declare success than with actually succeeding, Reines predicts. Trump, for instance, declared victory when Sprint agreed to keep 5,000 jobs in the United States. Those jobs, however, were part of a commitment that Sprint's parent company had previously announced. Those details didn't matter much to Trump. A photo-op at the groundbreaking of a wall along the Mexican border might be all he needs to declare the fabled project successfully underway, and move on."

RELATED: Cracked: 6 Things Juggalo Culture Teaches Us about Donald Trump

Sultan Knish: How Soros Destroyed the Democratic Party

"Money poured into the fringe organizations of the left like MoveOn, which had moved on from a petition site to a PAC. In 2004, Soros was its biggest donor. He didn't manage to bring down Bush, but he helped buy the Democratic Party as a toy for his yowling dorm room of left-wing activists to play with.

"Soros hasn't had a great track record at buying presidential elections. The official $25 million he poured into this one bought him his worst defeat since 2004. But his money did transform the Democrat Party.

"And killed it....

"The left had recreated the Democrat Party and marginalized it. Much of this disaster had been funded with Soros money. Like many a theatrical villain, the old monster had been undone by his own hubris. Had Soros aided the Democrats without trying to control them, he would have gained a seat at the table in a national party. Instead he spent a fortune destroying the very thing he was trying to control.

"George Soros saw America in terms of its centers of economic and political power. He didn't care about the vast stretches of small towns and villages, of the more modest cities that he might fly over in his jet but never visit, and the people who lived in them. Like so many globalists who believe that borders shouldn't exist because the luxury hotels and airports they pass through are interchangeable, the parts of America that mattered to him were in the glittering left-wing bubble inhabited by his fellow elitists.

"Trump's victory, like Brexit, came because the left had left the white working class behind. Its vision of the future as glamorous multicultural city states was overturned in a single night. The idea that Soros had committed so much power and wealth to was of a struggle between populist nationalists and responsible internationalists. But, in a great irony, Bush was hardly the nationalist that Soros believed. Instead Soros spent a great deal of time and wealth to unintentionally elect a populist nationalist.

"Leftists used Soros money to focus on their own identity politics obsessions leaving the Dems with little ability to interact with white working class voters. The Ivy and urban leftists who made up the core of the left had come to exist in a narrow world with little room for anything and anyone else."

10 most Influential Active Street Photographers

Who they are and what they've contributed to the art of street photography.

David French: Male Vulnerability Isn't a Virtue | National Review

"Here is the key question -- what better equips a man to confront a difficult and challenging world? Is it more tears? Or is it more toughness? Is it teaching men to be compassionate or to be objects of compassion? The vulnerable male's cry is "help me." The masculine male's quest is to become the helper....

"Boys will be boys, but they won't all become men. At their best, shorthand admonitions such as 'man up' or 'be a man' carry with them the weight of tradition and morality that makes a simple, though difficult request: Deny self. Don't indulge your weakness. Show courage. Avoid the easy path. Some men fall naturally into this role, for others it's much more difficult. The proper response to those who struggle is compassion. It's not to redefine masculinity for the minority.

"For a father, there are few more rewarding things in life than helping a son become a man, to watch him test himself in productive ways and to help him cultivate and demonstrate a protective spirit. Among the great gifts a father can give a son is a sense of masculine purpose, and no that purpose isn't a 'box,' it's a powerful force for good."

JC in transition | Climate Etc.

Climate scientist Judith Curry is retiring from her tenured faculty position at Georgia Tech in order to enjoy

"A deciding factor was that I no longer know what to say to students and postdocs regarding how to navigate the CRAZINESS in the field of climate science. Research and other professional activities are professionally rewarded only if they are channeled in certain directions approved by a politicized academic establishment -- funding, ease of getting your papers published, getting hired in prestigious positions, appointments to prestigious committees and boards, professional recognition, etc.

"How young scientists are to navigate all this is beyond me, and it often becomes a battle of scientific integrity versus career suicide (I have worked through these issues with a number of skeptical young scientists).

"Let me relate an interaction that I had with a postdoc about a month ago. She wanted to meet me, as an avid reader of my blog. She works in a field that is certainly relevant to climate science, but she doesn't identify as a climate scientist. She says she gets questioned all the time about global warming issues, and doesn't know what to say, since topics like attribution, etc. are not topics that she explores as a scientist. WOW, a scientist that knows the difference! I advised her to keep her head down and keep doing the research that she thinks interesting and important, and to stay out of the climate debate UNLESS she decides to dig in and pursue it intellectually. Personal opinions about the science and political opinions about policies that are sort of related to your research expertise are just that - personal and political opinions.  Selling such opinions as contributing to a scientific consensus is very much worse than a joke....

"At this point, the private sector seems like a more 'honest' place for a scientist working in a politicized field than universities or government labs -- at least when you are your own boss....

"We'll see how all this plays out, but I figured I've earned the right to explore and do what I want. This is my definition of academic freedom (and I'm not asking anyone else to pay for it)."

Township and Range Search By Description

Input state, meridian, township, range, and section, and you'll be given the lat/long coordinates and a KML file for use with Google Earth. The site also has special tools (subscription required) for navigating the exceptional systems in use in California, Louisiana, and Texas.

Trump's envoy to Israel is ready to slay some sacred cows - Jeff Jacoby

One of Trump's more heartening appointments: "David Friedman avidly supports expanding Israeli settlements in the West Bank, unequivocally rejects a 'two-state solution' to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and strongly believes the US embassy in Israel should be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Those positions put Friedman - Donald Trump's bankruptcy lawyer and close friend - sharply at odds with the US foreign-policy establishment and entrenched conventional wisdom. So when the president-elect announced on Thursday that Friedman was his choice to be the next ambassador to Israel, alarm bells started clanging....

"Friedman's view is that US policy should be sharply reoriented - away from pressuring Israel to keep taking more 'risks for peace,' and toward pressuring the Palestinians to abandon their oft-stated ambition of eliminating the Jewish state. The incoming Trump administration, Friedman explained recently, 'doesn't see much opportunity for progress until the Palestinians renounce violence and accept Israel as a Jewish state. That's really a prerequisite.'"


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